National Magnet Nurse of the Year award goes to UChicago Medicine nurse

[MUSIC PLAYING] Thank you, Dr. Pappas and to my CNO, Dr. Chase. My thanks to the Magnet nurse of the year nominating committee for awarding me this honor and to my colleagues at the University of Chicago Medicine, who have encouraged and supported my practice.

I've been a nurse for quite a few years. Reflecting on my entry into practice, I remember my Aunt Kate, who ran the OB practice of two very busy physicians. She was a woman who loved her job and instilled the love of nursing in me.

She completed her nursing education with a bachelor's degree in the 1940s, which at that time was unusual. She helped me understand that obtaining a college degree upon my entry into nursing would best serve my patients and maybe even influence the nursing profession Thanks to my aunt's inspiration I became an advanced practice ostomy nurse.

Because of UCM support of nursing research, I've had the opportunity to create new knowledge and improvements in the care of ostomy patients. Since almost 2/3 of patients develop peristomal skin issues, this is an area that needs our attention.

I was the lead investigator as our research team developed and completed one of the only randomized controlled trial ostomy research projects, examining peristomal skin integrity, cost of care, and patient satisfaction. It is a patient-centered activity such as this that I believe we as nurses are in a prime position to lead and develop.

The most important part of my practice is providing direct care to ostomy patients. Our ostomy clinic is an independent, nurse-run clinic with support from the department of Nursing and General Surgery. We have a busy outpatient practice providing care to patients who are preparing for surgery as well as those who are learning how to return to a healthy life with an ostomy.

The leadership at the University of Chicago Medicine supports all of our nursing staff to pursue excellence and has supported the development of autonomous, nurse-led clinics. Much as my Aunt Kate inspired me, I hope my work inspires nurses beginning their careers to aim high. Don't think that there's already enough knowledge in our field. Even after 40 years in practice, I'm still learning and innovating.

My thanks to the ostomy care team, our director, Susan Solmos, and the surgical and medical teams that work with us daily. My final thanks is to my husband Jim who patiently listens to a daily recap of my activities. He probably knows enough about ostomy nursing that at this point he could take their certification test, and he'd pass it.


Janice Colwell, a longtime advanced practice nurse who cares for patients in the University of Chicago Medicine's outpatient ostomy clinic, has been awarded the prestigious Magnet Nurse of the Year Award by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), a subsidiary of the American Nurses Association.

The national award, announced May 14, 2021, as part of National Nurses Week, recognizes Colwell’s contributions to clinical nursing. Her accomplishments include making ostomy patient education videos (one of which has received more than 117,000 views), mentoring and educating nursing students, developing an ostomy care associates program for nurses, editing and authoring books and articles, and leading a randomized control trial that researched pouching system adhesives, patient satisfaction and cost.

“I’m really proud of the work I’ve done. Clinical nursing, especially in an advanced practice nurse role, is the future of specialty nursing. This award is a recognition of that,” she said. “Nurses have a contribution to make clinically, and we can contribute to new knowledge and education.”

An ostomy is a surgical procedure that reroutes the way urine and/or stool exits the body, and helps a malfunctioning digestive or urinary system. The surgery creates an opening in the abdomen called a stoma. For most ostomies, a pouch is worn over the stoma to collect stool or urine.

Colwell, MS, RN, CWOCN, FAAN, is an international expert in ostomy care, said David T. Rubin, MD, Co-Director of UChicago Medicine’s Digestive Diseases Center and Chief, Section of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition.

“What is most striking, in every interaction, is her complete focus on the individual patient’s needs," Rubin said. "She is a thoughtful, endlessly compassionate, and expert problem solver who is quite literally a quality-of-life savior for our patients and an incredible resource and partner for me and my colleagues."

A Chicago native, Colwell earned her undergraduate degree at St. Xavier University in Chicago and then worked at Mercy Hospital. She joined UChicago Medicine in 1978 and later got her master’s degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

At UChicago Medicine, Colwell started out managing patients with ostomies. As the digestive diseases department grew, she was able to find a clinical path to help her do what she loves most: teaching others. That includes the hospital staff, nursing students, and patients who are learning to live with an ostomy.

“I love ostomy nursing because it’s an independent nursing practice. This is truly nursing at its best — helping people rehab and get to where they need to be,” she said. “I feel quite lucky to be a long-term participant in our patients' care.”

Colwell has served on dozens of professional committees around the country and has been a speaker at ostomy events worldwide. Her true passion is establishing a relationship with her patients and helping them navigate the transition to living with an ostomy. Her Magnet Nurse of the Year Award acknowledges her clinical contributions. She will receive a crystal award and a trip to Atlanta to meet with ANCC leaders.

Colleague Michele Rubin (no relation to David Rubin), an IBD clinical nurse specialist and Director of Advanced Practice Nursing, called Colwell “an asset to her profession” and praised her work for developing the hospital’s ostomy nurse program and educating nurses around the world on stoma management.

“She has inspired many nurses, and even some of her patients, to become enterostomal nurses due to her exemplary passion, skill in stoma problem solving, publishing and drive to advocate for patients to ensure they achieve their best quality of life with a stoma,” said Rubin, APN, CNS, CGRN. “It has been a pleasure working side by side with her in the colorectal surgery clinic.”

Dr. Rubin added that he feels fortunate to work with her. “The field of ostomy nursing is infinitely better because of her efforts to share her wisdom with others,” he said.

Ostomy Care Services

We provide care and support for patients living with stomas as well as those considering ostomy surgery. Our specialty nurses, certified in ostomy wound and continence care, work with adults anticipating the creation of an ileostomy or colostomy.

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